What is Mindful Eating? And How Can It Benefit You?

How often do you find yourself sitting down to eat without even realizing how much you’re eating or even how it tastes? Before you realize it, your plate is empty. Suddenly, a meal you were looking forward to has lost all it joy and you are now looking for “more.”

The idea of mindful eating has been gaining popularity over the past few years. But what does it actually mean to be a mindful eater and what are the benefits?

What is mindful eating? 

Mindfulness is all about bringing your focus to the task you’re doing in the present moment. Bring full awareness to whatever task is at hand. Thus, when mindfully eating, you are paying attention to what’s going on both inside and around you when having a snack or meal. 

Mindful eating aims to enhance your awareness. It brings the focus to your physical presence and how you are feeling internally.

Mindful eating celebrates the function, joy, and innate satisfaction that should come with eating. It’s about eating without judging or criticizing yourself. While it’s not specifically about relaxation or happiness, these can come as additional side effects from eating a meal mindfully.

Take the time to enjoy what you’re eating!

How can you start practicing mindful eating?

The ideal way to start eating mindfully, as with any task or goal, is to start slowly. Try one mindful meal a week, then ease into 1 per day, and so on.

Mindful eating is about getting to the source of your cravings and determining what the body truly needs to thrive.

First, reflect on your eating habits and food sources.

  • Where is this food from?
  • Why am I eating this?
  • Why do I crave certain foods?
  • Am I actually hungry?
  • What will this food do for me?
  • How can I eat more mindfully?

Here are a few skills you can start today to eat more mindfully.

Think before you shop.

Fill your shopping cart with foods that can add value to your nutrition and health. Try avoiding empty calories and go for nutrient dense whole foods. Nicely navigate the grocery store by shopping the perimeter and fresh produce sections first. Eating mindfully starts in your shopping.

Fill your plate with the rainbow.

Fill your plate a variety of plant based colors. Each color comes with slightly different benefits to optimize your body’s health! If trying to lose weight, you can also add more healthy low-calorie foods. Then, aim to eat them items first.  Feel how your satiety changes during the meal. You will learn your body craves nutrients over empty fillers.

Eat small portions.

At the start of your meal, serve yourself a smaller portion than you think you will need to feel full. As you finish your plate, you can mindfully decide if you are still hungry and if you will actually enjoy a second helping. Eating off a smaller plate is a ridiculously simple change that can cue you to check in with your hunger sooner. Eating without awareness quickly leads to overeating because we didn’t gain any of the satisfaction we yearned from our meal.

Keep chewing.

With each mouthful, you give yourself more time to truly tune into the flavors and textures of the food you are eating. Chewing your food into smaller pieces will help to slow down the pace of your eating as well as gauge fullness.   It also helps your gut fully absorb all of the benefits of each bite with fewer GI issues such as gas and bloat.

Set aside all electronics.

Set aside all electronics and distractions at your next meal or snack. Let yourself unplug fully to reconnect to the food in front of you. Food is meant to be enjoyed. Observe when you begin to feel full and satisfied with your food.

Nutrient dense mindful eating.
Slow down and enjoy your nutrient dense food!

Benefits of mindful eating.

There are a lot of benefits to mindful eating in addition to the satisfaction of paying attention to the tastes and flavors of the foods you’re consuming.

Helps you slow down.

Eating quickly is not good for digestion. It’s also bad when it comes to controlling the quantity of food you’re eating. Having a mindful eating practice can help you tune in and pay attention to the food you’re eating, which in turn can help slow you down (and enjoy!).

Promotes eating less.

Tuning into your food gives your brain and stomach more time to communicate and sense fullness, a process that takes about 15-20 minutes. This prevents that sudden discomfort and bloating that can happen with rapid overeating.

Boosts satisfaction.

When you take the time to listen to what’s going on inside of your body, it can help promote feeling satisfied. Many of us find ourselves searching for “answers” in our cupboards and fridge when we’ve just eaten or aren’t even remotely hungry. This comes from lack of connection to our food that leaves us feeling bored and unsatisfied.

Helps to better nourish the body.

Paying better attention to what you’re eating and planning ahead are highly beneficial when it comes to providing more nutrients to your body. This inherently leads to consistently better food and health choices.

Promotes eating based on internal cues.

We are all constantly triggered to eat by millions of cues that are totally unrelated to physical hunger. The practice of mindful eating teaches you how to become more aware of these “external triggers” to eat, such as advertising, bad habits, and social norms. 

With mindful eating, you can learn how to tune into your internal cues of hunger and fullness and use this information to drive your eating patterns rather than non-hunger related cues. You can assess what you truly enjoy eating. When you pay attention, maybe you’ll realize you don’t enjoy eating that entire bag of chips as much as you think!

Develop trust in yourself.

Practicing mindful eating tunes you into your own inherent wisdom and helps you start to trust yourself to make the right decisions about what your body needs. This internal wisdom and body awareness are key to healthy eating and all other aspects of your health.

Related read: 8 Reasons Why Health Consciousness is Important

Many of us are stuck in a mindless eating routine – a tough habit to kick.

Eating is essential for life. Yet, it can get complicated quickly when emotions, stress, social norms, and societal pressures get in the way. Eating should be enjoyed without feeling guilty or desensitized. When you start paying attention, you will find you want to eat less junk and drive true joy from what your fueling your body with.

Mindful eating is worth it.

Mindful eating takes extra work and dedication to be completely in tune with your hunger and food choices. The benefits you will gain from it make it totally worth it.

Start practicing slowly over time. You don’t have to be mindful about everything you eat. Start with one meal or snack. Get rid of distractions and invite all your senses to the table.

What about you?

I recently listened to a podcast about a man that ate cake with his tea every afternoon. He wanted to lose weight and was struggling kicking his cake habit. When he took the time to eat his cake mindfully, he realized he didn’t even like cake! He had just convinced himself that he needed it everyday and it was built into his core habits.

What foods and habits are you clinging to without really knowing why? Mindful eating is how I quickly realized that overly sweet foods make me feel terrible. I now try to go for natural sugars found in whole fruit when I am craving something sweet!

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